The Fate franchise is an urban fantasy that follows several families of sorcerers summoning heroes from history and mythology to fight each other over the Holy Grail. The main story is explored in Fate Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works. If you haven’t seen either series, then the following article won’t make much sense. So, give those anime a watch or hop onto YouTube for a Fate Lore Overview.
Fate Zero has a special place in my heart because it was one of the first series that got me hooked on anime in the 2010s. I’d never seen an animated series that looked like it had a movie-level budget before. I was floored by the superbly animated action, unique dark fantasy world, and compelling three-dimensional characters. The enigmatic and machiavellian Kiritsugu Emiya became my favorite thought-provoking anti-hero.
I was less thrilled by Unlimited Blade Works because the core cast follows Kiritsugu’s adopted son, Shirou who I found bland by comparison. So when a magical girl show staring Kiritsugu’s daughter, Illya Von Einzbern, showed up on Crunchyroll, I didn’t bother watching it. I just assumed that Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya was just a generic waifu trash anime. I was half-right–Prisma Illya is waifu trash, but it’s platinum-grade waifu trash!
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is essentially a fan-fiction with a budget and sharp character writing. The series takes the core premise of Fate’s heroic spirits and mixes them with an ecchi magical girl adventure. The result is a surprisingly fun show that spoofs the events and characters of the main timeline.
Season 1 is pretty solid. It follows Illya’s journey to becoming a magical girl and reclaiming magic cards imbued with the powers of heroic spirits. We also see her relationship develop with a mysterious magical girl named Miyu. Yes, this is unapologetically a yuri seres and if that’s not your thing–then don’t bother watching it.
The show heats up with the introduction of Illya’s promiscuous doppelganger, Kuro in Season 2. The tone shifts from a fantasy adventure to a slice-of-life ecchi comedy. I found Seasons 2 and 3 to be the most enjoyable because of the hilarious hijinks between Kuro and the rest of the cast. Kuro is an amazing character whose impish attitude is used to mask the feeling that she doesn’t belong.
It’s rumored that Kuro’s character served as a partial inspiration for Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro– both Miss Nagatoro and Prisma Illya are anime that look trashy on the surface but have genuinely heartwarming moments that sneak up on you. Kuro’s simple desire to exist and be unapologetically herself speaks to the deeper themes within the “girls love” genre.
The moment that solidified my enthusiasm for the series was in Season 3, Episode 3, “Girls, Life is Short so Rot Away!” It’s an episode where one of the supporting characters is discovered making “boys love” stories. Now there’s comedy and there’s horror– then there’s comedy that’s horrifying. This episode perfectly satirizes dirty fan-fiction while also acting as a meta-commentary on the Prisma Illya anime as a whole– which is essentially a dirty Fate fan-fiction.
Season 4 and the following film, Prisma Illya: Licht Nameless Girl are alright. They’re not as much fun as Seasons 2 and 3 but Illya grows as a character. In the main timeline of Fate Zero and Fate/Stay Night, Illya is an antagonist who is ultimately defeated by her brother Shirou Emiya. But in her own series we get to see what might have been if Illya had received the same love and support that Shirou did. It’s wonderful to see Illya as a beacon of optimism and bravery– had her father, Kiritsugu Emiya, lived to see her grow up, he would have been very proud.
Now this brings us to the final movie in the series, Prisma Illya: Vow in the Snow. This film is technically a prequel that follows the journey of Miyu before Season 1. However, this will only make sense and have an emotional impact if you watch the series in the right order. There are few “highs” in anime like discovering Fate for the first time and Prisma Illya: Vow in the Snow delivers that type of “high.” It’s the kind of film that makes it worth being a Fate fan for over ten years!
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is not the type of show that’s “cool” to admit to enjoying. It’s a raunchy magical girl anime that’s only impactful if you’ve seen and loved other anime series in the same franchise. However, no anime series gets four seasons and two movies without heart– and Prisma Illya has a lot of love and respect for its characters and viewers. The creativity and charm of Prisma Illya make the series a worthy addition to the Fate universe, the magical girl genre, and Anime as a whole.
For those interested here’s the recommended viewing order.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: Licht Nameless Girl
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya: Vow in the Snow
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